Mr. Michael Kitt TD, Minister of State at the Department
of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has announced
major increases in the subsidies that group water schemes
are paid towards their operational costs.
There are as many as 5,500 group schemes in Ireland, serving
more than 500,000 people. These community-owned schemes -
run by voluntary committees - supply drinking water to households,
farms and small businesses in areas not served by local authority
"Group water schemes are a shining example of community
enterprise" - said Minister Kitt. "I am delighted
to be able to step-up the subsidies which will reassure the
groups about their long-term financial viability. The very
significant increases also demonstrate the government's recognition
of the crucial role group schemes are continuing to play in
improving quality of life and the rural economy generally."
Exchequer subsidies are paid to group water schemes to give
their members a degree of parity with urban households, whose
drinking water is supplied free of charge by local authorities.
The subsidy covers the domestic share of the groups' operation
and maintenance costs.
The improved subsidies follow an in-depth examination by
the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
- working closely with the National
Federation of Group Water Schemes - of costs faced
by voluntary group scheme committees in the new business and
regulatory environment they are working in. Many groups now
have sophisticated water treatment plants operated by professional
contractors. They are also soon to be licensed under new quality
control measures introduced under the Water Services Act 2007.
The Minister's announcement means that the lowest annual
rate of subsidy - for group schemes using public water mains
as a source - goes up from €50.79 to €70.00 per
household. Schemes that rely on their own private source -
such as a well or borehole - will see their annual subsidy
increase from €101.58 to €140.00 per household.
Where a group scheme has provided its own water treatment
plant under a Design, Build, Operate (DBO) contract, a new
subsidy will be paid to cover the full production cost of
treated water for domestic use.
"The group scheme sector is going through a huge modernisation
process to ensure that it can meet the high expectations of
its membership and, equally importantly, the stringent legal
obligations compelling all water suppliers to provide their
customers with clean and wholesome drinking water" -
Minister Kitt said.
He added that the government was investing substantial funding
on improving the infrastructure for both local authority and
group scheme supplies and acknowledged there were significant
operational costs associated with achieving quality standards.
"Where group schemes are concerned, these new and improved
subsidies give them the resources they need to meet the challenge
of consistently supplying their members with top-quality drinking
water that is always available on tap when required."